Newly minted Springboks’ coach Allister Coetzee has been given a mandate to rebuild the national side before the 2019 World Cup in Japan and meet South Africa’s rules on racial inclusion.
Coetzee has his work cut out over the next four years following the post-World Cup retirement of stalwarts Victor Matfield, Jean de Villiers and Fourie du Preez last year.
That team was only just over a quarter non-white players and South Africa’s transformation goals mean he will have to raise that to at least half players of colour in a game traditionally seen as the preserve of the white minority.
His transformation record at the professional Stormers side was the best of South Africa’s Super Rugby coaches and was likely a major reason for his selection for the Springbok job.
“Transformation is not an issue for me. As national coach you have to understand our unique situation in South Africa. I firmly believe that uniqueness can make us stronger,” said the 52-year-old, who in 2001 became the first black coach of a South African provincial side.
“Across the colour spectrum, players are performing at the moment and every black player that I select will be on merit.”
His Springbok appointment ended four months of speculation over who would succeed Heyneke Meyer and his opening assignment will be three home Tests against Ireland in June.
Coetzee was assistant coach to Jake White when South Africa won the World Cup in 2007, spent six years with the Stormers Super Rugby side and also led Western Province to domestic Currie Cup titles in 2012 and 2014.
He was among the front-runners for the post when White was not retained in 2008, but instead the job went to the more experienced Peter de Villiers, whose mixed tenure ended in a quarter-final exit four years later.
“It’s an important day in my life and a humbling experience, I am grateful to South African Rugby for having confidence in me,” an emotional Coetzee said on Tuesday.